Showtime’s bantamweight tournament starts Saturday

At today’s weigh-in, Vic Darchinyan (left) and Abner Mares (right) pose for a photo.

If there’s one boxing weight class in Southern California that’s always loaded with talent, that has to be the bantamweight division (115 to 122 pounds). Saturday evening, December 11, four of the world’s most talented bantamweights are set to participate in a winner takes all, two-stage, single-elimination tournament. It all begins with two semifinal bouts to be shown live on Showtime starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT from the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.

Finally, some of the best boxers in the sport will get the


recognition they deserve. You won’t see any lolly-gagging, hiding behind gloves or slow down tactics. These guys throw hands at lightning speeds.

The referee raises Abner Mares arm after a recent victory.

In the opening bout, undefeated, world-ranked rising star Abner Mares (20-0-1, 13 KOs), of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, will face two-division world champion Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan (35-2-1, 27 KOs), of Sydney, Australia, by way of Armenia.

Then, former IBF 118-pound champ Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko (27-2, 22 KOs), of Bronx, N.Y., by way of Ghana, Africa, will try to earn back the title from the man who won it from him, current IBF champ Yonnhy “El Colombiano” Perez (20-0-1, 14 KOs), of Santa Fe Springs, CA, by way of Colombia.

With a win over Darchinyan, Mares could earn a rematch against Perez, who he fought to a disputed majority draw last May 22, or face the hard-hitting Agbeko.

As always the fighters were brimming with confidence during the recent media conference call that the people of Showtime set up. Mares was proud of his heritage and how his family survived with seven kids and how he came to the U.S. when he was seven. “I’m just glad that boxing was there for me. With the pull of the gangs and gang activity being everywhere.”

Vic Darchinyan (center) has his arm raised after one of his many victories.

If Darchinyan wins his semifinal bout, he could face the last man to beat him, Agbeko, who won a close, unanimous decision in July 2009. From the stares Darchinyan was giving everyone, he appears to be the most intense of the four, at least in his words and looks. “I’m ready. I’m looking forward to facing him again. I believe in myself. I’d love to destroy him and I’m going to deliver.”

Agbeko, who lost his title to Perez, said he was eager to get back in the ring. “I am in a competition with myself, I was the champion and I lost it to Yonnhy Perez and I have really been working hard for this fight.

Joseph Agbekov (left) and Yonnhy Perez (right) pose for a photo after Friday’s weigh-in. All Photos courtesy of: Tom Casino/Showtime

It is the fight of my life, the fight of my career. I have to win this fight to become a champion again.” After receiving a question in regard to his nickname he said, “Growing up, kids were afraid of me. So my dad gave me the nickname, King Kong. I figured I’d better learn how to fight.”

Perez stated that he was expecting nothing but the best from Agbeko. “I know this is going to be a great war just like the first one was. I know how good of a fighter Agbeko is; I saw and felt him in the ring. I know he’s prepared technically and will try to take the belt, but I have prepared myself to keep the belt – no one will take it away from me because I fight for my family. In my country, they don’t just see me as the Champion of Columbia, I am the Champion of the World.”

Regardless of the scenarios, story lines or match-ups, each boxer begins the tournament with the same chance to make and win the Final and ultimately earn bragging rights as the best Bantamweight in the world.

I’m sure the many local bantamweights from the San Diego boxing community will have an interest in this tournament and be watching intently:

Professionals like: Christopher “the San Diego Kid” Martin of Chula Vista. Martin now has 20 wins with no defeats. David “Morita” de la Mora (22-0), Jorge De Alba (5-0), Rico Ramos of Los Angeles (18-0) and Jose Araiza of Tecate (29-3).

Word to all the local amateurs who also fall into this category – you too can learn a lot from watching these great bantamweights: That means you Marty Kelley, Abraham Rios and Antonio Carignan of USIAA, Antonio Moreno, Jose Jurado, Jose Toribio of the National City CYAC, Juan Vasquez and Anthony Quinones of Chula Vista Boxing, Brandon Venegas of Heber, Echo Ibrahimj of Undisputed Fitness & Training Center in El Cajon, Ryan Soliven of the Mongoose Boxing Club, Ronald Locsin and Ryan Soliven of City Boxing, Alfredo Rodriguez, Jorge Ruiz, Antonio Giller of the Alliance Training Center, Fernando Alvarez of El Centro, Estevan Vasquez, Anthony Briones, Jesus Gonzalez, Arek Garlnic of Real Deal, Robert Meza of Pro-Am Boxing, Saul Soto of ASG, Horatio Cortez of Fights Boxing Program, Mario Cuin of Temecula, Elias and Emmanuel Diaz of Barrio Station, Carlos Alvarado and Abel Guzman of Gutierrez, Luis Vargas of Lompac, Omar Briseno of Bell Gardens, Miguel Bracamontes of Escondido, Johnny Quiroz and Eric Cruz of Rhino Boxing, Balfred Gallaro of Porras Boxing, Xavier Gonzalez of Poway, Eduardo Herrera of Old School Boxing, Elias Gutierrez, Unattached and Victor Hernandez of Los Dorados.

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